A team of scientists and researchers in New Zealand today dissected only the second intact specimen of a colossal squid hauled from the ocean.
The 350kg female was caught a couple of months ago in the Ross Sea off the coast of Antarctica by a team fishing for Patagonian toothfish.
Pulled from a depth somewhere between 1200m and 1800m, it weighed about 350kg and was 3.5m long from fin to tentacle.
The fisherman ceased operations immediately once they saw the beast, and slung a tarpaulin underneath it to preserve it as well as possible. It was donated to the Museaum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and until yesterday, had been kept on ice.
Colossal squid are shorter than their legendary brethren, giant squid, but heavier. The largest known specimen of a colossal squid weighed around 500kg.
Scientists have known about their existence since 1925, but only from scraps found inside whales and sucker imprints on whale skin. It wasn’t until 2007 when the same vessel that hooked this specimen, the long-liner San Aspiring, caught the first live colossal squid, also in the Ross Sea.
Since 2008, 4.5 million have seen that first squid on display in the Natural History Display at the Te Papa museum.
The dissection today was carried out by museum staff with the Auckland University of Technology helping out. It began at 9.30am AEST and was broadcast live on YouTube for the next three-and-a-half hours.
Here’s the photo highlights.
Dr Kat Bolstad led the dissection, starting with an examination of the tentacles.
The eye generated a lot of excitement on Twitter.
It was 35cm across, the largest in the animal kingdom.
Just one half of the lens was as big as the palm of Dr Bolstad’s hand.
She said the team would probably try to reinsert the eye for when the squid goes on public display.
The beak took some removal, but it was well worth it.
The team grouped around the squid to give an idea of why it’s called “colossal”.
The water is brown with ink, ruptured liver juice, blood and ammonium chloride, which the squid holds in a sac for buoyancy.
One of the main differences between colossal squid and their relatives are the presence of hooks in their tentacles.
Dr Bolstad brought one out from the museum’s other colossal squid to demonstrate how they swivel 360 degrees, which was unnerving.
It’s an incredible creature. You can watch the entire show here.